The Employers' Association

The Employers’ Association (TEA) is a not-for-profit employers’ association, formed in 1939, with offices in Grand Rapids serving the West Michigan employer community. We help more than 600 member companies maximize employee productivity and minimize employer liability through human resources and management advice, training, survey data, and consulting services.

TEA is in the business of helping people. This blog is intended to address human issues, concerns and the things that impact people - be they self-perpetuated or externally imposed. Feel free to respond to the thoughts presented here, for without each other, we are nothing!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

EXPANDED REFLECTIONS FROM “PATHWAYS AND PASSAGES TO LEADERSHIP”


Leaders inspire others to change.  Rather than telling another what must be done (or what has been done wrong) they show individuals a better way.  Rather than dwelling upon an individual’s negative behavior and their shortcomings they acknowledge positive efforts and reward positive results.  A leader paints a picture of “what if” or “what could be” rather than “what is” or “what always will be,” making sure that stakeholders within the process are included in the “painting” as easily recognized key contributors.  We cannot make an individual do what they choose not to do but we CAN provide positive reinforcement and identify potential negative consequences should they choose NOT to act appropriately.

Leaders typically demonstrate the ability to influence by example to gain the support of others that choose to follow them RATHER THAN forcing them to follow a lead they do not believe in or trust.  Successful leaders put more effort into selling than they do telling – into securing “buy-in” and sharing ownership than they do in making excuses or assigning blame – recognizing that people contribute more if they WANT to do something than if they HAVE to do it.  They anticipate “what might be possible” and preparing to advance that objective rather than reacting to “what did happen” and blaming others to avoid accepting the consequences.  Gaining respect and credibility in the eyes of those being led is far better than trying to be a friend of those being managed or protecting them from tasting defeat.

Leaders remain true to their values – transferring the skills and aptitudes they have learned onto others by saying what they believe and doing what they know to be right.  Great leaders tend to display a fierce resolve to do whatever is needed in order to accomplish their stated objectives without really caring who gets the credit for the work AS LONG AS the anticipated results are accomplished.  Saying what you mean (then doing what you say) are the two greatest attributes that a leader can exhibit.

Exceptional leaders (within a work or a personal setting) recognize that their actions speak far more loudly than do their words.  They look for the good in others, loudly praising their positive actions, interactions and attributes while quietly addressing their shortcomings privately and behind the scenes.  Though negative behavior needs to be addressed, they make an effort to acknowledge and verbalize appreciation for things done well along the road to accomplishment.  Great leaders would never ask another to do anything they would be unwilling to do themselves.

Words describe what one wishes to accomplish but actions lead to the results that define success.  An individual blessed with the gift of communication can paint a picture with the words he or she speaks.  An individual blessed with the gift of accomplishment can achieve great things with or without the help of others.  The rare individual possessing both gifts can accomplish things not yet imagined by engaging the abilities of others to raise both the floor (elevating those things once seen as minimally acceptable) and rip off the ceiling (allowing them to grasp for the things that were once beyond their reach).

When all is said and all is done our emphasis MUST be on recognizing accomplishment rather than rewarding effort OR people will continue to try tested and proven ways of doing things rather than attempting the unconsidered to achieve the unimaginable.  While all individuals SHOULD be able to play on a team – to share in the rewards of a group’s efforts and work together to accomplish more than any one individual could have done on their own – every team needs a leader to monitor its activities, measure its efforts and acknowledge its accomplishments or the “wins” will become insignificant events while the “tries” will become praiseworthy.

There is no limit to what can be achieved when one seeks results rather than recognition – when the goal becomes to accomplish our objective rather than making sure that we receive what we believe to be the appropriate credit for our individual (or our team’s) efforts.  While doing things “as they have always been done” will often result in an “acceptable” result, is it not better to strive for excellence (rather than to thrive on mediocrity) and to push the boundaries out towards the unexplored horizon (rather than living comfortably within defined silos and contained fields)?

Before we can move from “what we have” to “what we hope for” we must realize that one journey must begin before another can begin – that before we can wrestle with new opportunities we must free ourselves from the constraints (and restrictions) that hold us back.  We must acknowledge that, before taking a new path to an unknown destination, we must abandon the old and familiar roads that have taken us safely to places in which we have found comfort.  All change begins with the deliberate consideration of an intentional action that, if initiated, will forever alter where we are as it redefines where we are going.

Without a goal – an aspiration to accomplish that which has not yet been achieved and to imagine that which has yet to be considered – and a way to measure progress towards its accomplishment, one will never know how far they have come nor how far they have yet to travel.  The secret to being all that you can be is in setting realistic goals that stretch your reality from what it is to what it has not yet been accomplished.  How can one move forward if they do not know when to begin their journey NOR where to cease their wandering?

In order to MAKE a difference in life we must be willing to BE different.  We cannot remain “one of the crowd” doing things the same way that have always been done if we expect change to occur.  We all choose which path we wish to travel – neither path being totally “right” or completely “wrong.”  We all live with our choices – holding fast to the possibilities (or the probabilities) that our actions dictate or choosing to pursue the unknown.  Whether you are a seeker or a planter – a dreamer or a doer – you will receive back in direct proportion to what you have invested in – limited ONLY by your own acceptance of (or refusal to accept) reality.


Before we seek safe passage, we must first dream – for without dreams we cannot establish goals and targets that have not yet been considered so that we might be able to achieve that which has not yet been discovered.  Before we determine which path we will follow we must immerse ourselves in all things that could be possible rather than seeking only those things of which we can be assured.  Allow each pathway you take provide safe passage to the fulfillment of your dreams – never giving in or giving up no matter what obstacle may block your way.  Seek greatness (rather than settling for adequacy).  Reach for the stars (rather than being content to bump against the ceiling).  Live within your potential (rather than limiting your success to those things that have previously been achieved or engaging only in the things you know how to do).  Success is not measured by how many times you have tried nor even how much you have accomplished but rather by what you learned each time you stumbled – by the number of times you have gotten up after being knocked down – as you positively influence the lives of those around you while persevering to do those things once thought to be beyond your reach.